High-volume keywords vs. low-volume keywords


This article provides a refresher on the difference between high-volume and low-volume keywords, the pros and cons of each, and the factors that can help determine whether or not a low- or high-volume keyword phrase should be bid on in your keyword advertising campaign.

High-volume keywords
These keywords are search terms that have a large search volume. In other words, many
people are querying these terms on Google, Yahoo and Bing. One example is the keyword phrase “computer repair.” AdWords shows that worldwide there are 823,000 Google searches for this phrase each month.
The pros of buying high-volume keywords include:
  • More people will probably see your ad.
  • More people will probably click on your ad.
  • More people may buy your product or service.
These are some of the cons of buying high-volume keywords:
  • Your costs per click will probably be greater.
  • More clicks mean even higher costs.
  • Your clicks will likely be less qualified.
Low-volume keywords
These keywords are search terms that have a small search volume. An example is “hot pink headbands,” which AdWords shows has 210 Google.com queries per month.
Another low-volume phrase is “stylish crocs,” with just 20 monthly queries.
These are the pros of buying low-volume keywords:
  • Your costs per click will probably be lower.
  • Fewer clicks mean even lower costs.
  • Your clicks will likely be more qualified.
These are the cons of buying low-volume keywords:
  • Fewer people will probably see your ad.
  • Fewer people will probably click on your ad.
  • Fewer people will probably buy your product or service.
So knowing these pros and cons, how do you determine which high-volume keyword phrases are OK to bid on, and which low-volume keyword phrases are OK to bid on? The answer is, it depends on a number of factors. Those include:
  • The keyword phrase’s actual cost per click
It might be a high-volume phrase, but maybe people still aren’t bidding on it. That is why I wrote that high-volume keywords probably have higher costs per click. If a high-volume phrase has a low CPC, jump in there and bid on this golden opportunity. Also know that just because a phrase is low-volume doesn’t mean it has a low CPC.
  • Your target market
If your industry sells a very specialized product for a narrow market, you probably don’t want a high-volume keyword phrase. Only people who really know your product are looking for you, so use a low-volume, long-tail keyword that more accurately describes your product or service.
If you’re selling something anyone could use, however, consider going with a higher-volume keyword phrase.
  • The cost of your offering
It might not be worth having high-volume keywords if your product is pretty inexpensive. Any revenue you earn will likely be offset by your click costs. But if you are selling something pricy, you’re more justified in purchasing a costly, high-volume phrase. Provided those clicking are converting, you are probably making a profit.
  • The purpose of your ads
If the main goal of your ad is to get your company’s name out there, then it doesn’t matter if you lose money with AdWords. The hope is that the exposure will lead to more sales down the line. More exposure is achieved by purchasing high-volume keyword phrases. If your goal is to make a profit now, then low-volume phrases might be your better bet.
  • Your keywords’ performance
If particular low-volume and/or high-volume keywords are bringing you unqualified clicks or no clicks at all, consider changing up your strategy. Instead of relying on just low-volume keywords, for instance, bid on a few higher-volume keywords. They don’t have to be super expensive— just more than what you are currently paying. See if those work better for you.

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Curtis Andrew
Oct 04, 2010

Good post.

If your just using Adwords for branding, for sure go for those high volume phrases.

If you are going for a direct sale or lead capture then I have found that somewhere in the middle works the best. The more specific and "action" oriented it is with "buyer" trigger words, the more likely you will get a conversion from it - and that's really the point at the end of the day...

P.S. that is one heck of a CAPTCHA you have here...(and I'm pretty good at them usually)

Richard Kraneis
Oct 05, 2010

Low Volume or High Volume, You still need a Spreadsheet

I enjoyed the article and I built a spreadsheet to go with it.

Whether low volume or high volume keywords, an estimated and actual campaign spreadsheet is essential.

I emailed KL the spreadsheet if you'd like to post it for discussion. Thanks for the article.

Kelley Moreno
Jul 10, 2015

I would love to get the spreadsheet if you are sharing?


Feb 28, 2013

Hi,Quick newbie question:What do you mean by:"Your clicks will likely be less/more qualified."?Thanks,Apu

Elisa Gabbert
Feb 28, 2013

"Qualified" clicks means that the people who click to your site are more likely to convert, however you define conversions. More specific, long-tail keywords show more intent, so those lower volume keywords often lead to more qualified clicks.

Apr 07, 2016

But how to find high volume keywords with low competition?

May 30, 2017

It seems like one could look at this one of two ways:

1. Better for searchers

This is the latest step in Google forcing publishers to focus less on narrow, long-tail keyword articles. This could encourage better, broader, more comprehensive resources in search results... the opposite extreme from the previously vanquished micro-niche sites and content farm articles, which were hyper-targeted on certain keywords.

2. Better for Google.

This is Google moving toward pay-to-play a la Facebook, as has been mentioned above.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Dinul Hq
Nov 05, 2017

This is very informative, Bookmarked right away for learn it again and again. Thanks!

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